Jig Fishing Basics

 West Coasts streams of the Fraser Valley has seen a recent rise in the number of anglers finding success catching Salmon and Steelhead using a technique called float fishing with jigs also known as jig fishing, a simple, yet deadly effective method for presenting a lure to river fish. The success of float fishing jigs migrated north of the 49th parallel from our angling neighbours in the Pacific Northwest states of Oregon and Washington, and with its proven success rate, jig fishing is here to stay. We enjoy using this technique for Chum, Coho and Pink Salmon fishing on the Fraser, Harrison, Chilliwack and Stave river systems and feel it is the most productive method to get good solid bites, day in and day out.

 Basic Jig Fishing Equipment Essentials

The setup is actually quite simple, and you likely have most of the components already, except maybe the jigs, if you are a first time float and jig fisherman.

  •  a good quality 9’ – 10 ½’ medium action spinning rod we like the Okuma SST
  •  a medium sized spinning reel with a good drag system, with 50 pound braided fishing line, we like the Okuma AV50
  •  Foam floats, I prefer 4” X 5/8” slip floats use a float color that you can see easily
  •  2-3” of ¼” pencil lead or a slinky weight tends to work well for jig fishing     20lb. Strong mono or flurocarbon leader
  •  Strong barrel swivels, 
  •  Jigs in multiple color combinations with strong Gamakatsu heavy wire hooks

Fishing with a Float and Jig

Setting this rig up properly for Chum Salmon is easy to do.  Simply adjust the float so that the jig is riding approx. 2-3 feet off the bottom of the river bed, this will prevent foul hooking any fish or snagging the jig or weight on the gravel bottom.  It may take a couple of casts to get the depth just perfect for the drift you are fishing so be ready to reel in quickly if you are banging the bottom right away as you will want to adjust it before hanging up and losing your rig.  

There is certain water that is more conducive to float fishing jigs, it is a technique that is best when used in traditional holding water such as water with a slow moving pace that is 4 – 10ft. deep or even deeper where salmon generally like to rest. This is not the technique you want to use in fast moving shallow water that the fish quickly move through before resting in the deeper pools.  Fishing with a float and jig can be effective in areas that have a slight ripple to the water if it has the right depth, but generally the most likely spots to get a bite with this technique will be the calmer pools from the start to the bottom of the deep hole.  Depending on the width of the river it may take several casts to thoroughly cover an area a single time.  Rather than just casting out and drifting through the middle of the hole cast after cast it is good to vary the casts and work different sections of a single hole as one area may have a unique underwater feature that is more appealing to the fish looking to hold up and rest before continuing on their migration upstream.

Additional Jig Fishing Tips

The perfect Chum- Jig heads generally weigh ¼ – ½ oz and over the years we have found that the best colors include purple and pink for Fraser Valley fish.  After the jig has settled and the float is making its way through the likely fish hold spots, give a slight wiggle to the rod tip while drifting jigs, don’t overdo it, but a little action imparted to the jig will sometimes get a fish excited and make them crush the lure as it travels by, when they otherwise would not have noticed it.  Float fishing is a very visual form of fishing as it is critical to keep an eye on the line and float to make sure to have a natural drift and know when the fish have taken the jig in their mouth.  When the float goes down you have a fish on and my experience has proven that most float and jig fish will have the jig firmly implanted in the upper part of the mouth making them easily unhooked and released when fishing to just catch and release, this method is much better versus traditional float and eggs which fish often take deep making them sometimes difficult to release without causing harm to the fish.

Jig Fishing for Other Species

When fishing for Pink Salmon I prefer to go a little lighter with my equipment from rod to reel to jig and line size to better match the Pink Salmon that we encounter.  The basics include lighter rods and shorter rods, around 8ft. is a good length as you want to be able to still effectively control the line during the drift.  I then match the rod with a smaller reel spooled up with w/30 lb. Braided line.  The preferred jig size is ¼ oz. and again we use pink, and sometimes light green will get the Pinks to bite when they are not biting the pink ones.  When fishing for Sockeyes we again use 1/4oz jigs almost all of the time and prefer a combination of pink and chartreuse. To get the normally tight lipped Sockeyes to bite I often add a small piece of shrimp or Krill to the hook as this can be quite effective when bait fishing methods are legal to use.

So next salmon season get out and try jig fishing with a float, I’m sure you’ll be hooked.